Hunsur’s Growing Tribe of Colonies

1 year, 2 months ago 0
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Joining the diversity that the small town celebrates, the tribal resettlement centres here offer its residents opportunities to join the mainstream of society.

 

Nagarahole National Park

As you leave the small Hunsur town and get onto the road leading to Nagarahole Tiger reserve, the town slowly metamorphoses into a pan-Indian, semi-global village. You will see boards on either side of the road announcing various ‘colonies’. A Tibetan colony, a HakkiPikki (nomadic group) colony, Marathi, Tamil and Malayali settlements all co-exist here. People who came down from various parts of the country for different reasons simply stayed back. Families numbering 40 were brought in from Chitradurga last century to help the king hunt. Now they are 700 in all and continue to stay in the outskirts of the forest .

Joining these colonies are Nagapura, Shettahalli, Hebbala and Masthigudi – the four resettlement centres occupied by tribal people who opted to come out of the tiger reserve after accepting the central government rehabilitation package. Lifestyles have changed as aspirations grew. Education is helping many in the pursuit of a livelihood. For many, entrepreneurial opportunities too have opened up.

Ganesh at Hebbala tribal settlement always wanted to start a business. He has taken the first step with his small shop attached to the house, providing for snacks and provisions required by the community of 130 families settled there since 2014-15. The shop fetches a daily profit of Rs 300 for the family of four. He plans to slowly expand the unit.

 

Ganesh’s wife at the shop counter

Vinod Kumar from Madenuru settlement of Aanechowkur range moved out to Shettahalli resettlement and picked up building skills in a ten-year stint in Bangalore. Now he is an expert in centering, rod bending and moulding services in building construction. With five other tribals under his employment, he has around 15 contracts in hand.

Rajappa J T (who was nominated as non-official member of National Tiger Conservation Authority, NTCA) is the head of the 150-strong Jenukuruba community settled at Shettahalli. With financial help from WCS – India, he has set up a shop in front of his house and caters to daily household needs of his people. His wife has trained to be a nurse and works as a health coordinator with WCS-India.

 

Vinod Kumar (right) at one of the houses he is helping to construct

Young Chandru from the Jenukuruba community completed his degree and has obtained a job with India Postal Department where he has been a packer for four years. His parents are labourers and they used to shuffle between working in coffee plantations in Karnataka and Kerala to make ends meet. “I have seen their struggle and have always wanted them to have a better life, so I am very happy I got the job at the post office.” He earns around Rs 12,000 rupees a month. His elder brother works with solar panels and pitches in to help the family.WCS – India sponsored Chandru’s higher education, helping him complete his BA degree.

Chandru is a Black Belt in Kung Fu and has taken part in the national games held in Kolkata in 2017. He dreams of having his own Kung Fu studio where he plans to teach children in his neighbourhood. He is happy with the move out of the forest.

J K Prakash is a Jenukuruba who fiercely opposed relocation in the beginning but eventually moved out to settle at Nagapura. He has been working with WCS-India, helping with post-relocation support at the resettlement centres.

 

Jenukuruba Chandu, the young Kung-fu champ who works at India Post

For the families that have moved out, things have changed for the better. In terms of livelihood, education for youth, medical facilities and power connection, the scenario has improved.

The 646 sq kms of the national park spread across two districts of Karnataka was declared a tiger reserve in 1999 and has a rich ecosystem comprising dry deciduous, moist deciduous to semi-evergreen forests. It houses a good number of carnivores like tiger, leopard and dhole as also sizeable numbers of elephants, sloth bear, gaur, etc. Along with Bandipur National Park, Mudumalai National Park and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, NTR forms one of the largest contiguous and protected area (around 2183 sq kms) for wildlife in the country.

Karnataka government first announced a relocation package with financial support from Project Tiger for Nagarahole reserve in 1997. Each beneficiary (adult above age of 18) in a family got Rs 1 lakh while the family also got five acres of land to cultivate on. The figures were later revised to Rs 10 lakh and three acres of land. Now it has been revised to a total of Rs 15 lakh per beneficiary. Since 1997, 792 families have been relocated from Nagarahole Tiger Reserve. There are still over 1000 families living in the various parts of the reserve.

While people at many at the resettlement centres have been growing traditional plants like maize, vegetables and paddy, some have been adventurous and gone on to cultivate banana, tobacco, cotton and wonder crops like chia. And reaped a good harvest.

WCS – India has been providing the families with both pre- and post-relocation support. “We are grateful for all that the organization has provided,” says Rajappa, while briefly touching upon his and others’ reluctance to move out of the forest, borne out of what he now calls “misguided information” from other quarters.

“The move out has been good for most of us. There was no work in the forest after it was declared a tiger reserve. Health and education facilities also were nil,” he adds.

The social welfare department has many packages for the tribals. For instance, during the monsoon season (six months) when work is tough to obtain, the families are provided with 30 eggs, a kilo of green gram, channa dal and 5 kilos of tur dal, 15 kg of ragi, and two litres of oil every month to tide over the time.

But, grouses are still voiced. At both Shetthalli and Hebbala, the common complaint voiced is that the money has not been completely given. At the former, the residents allege that almost Rs. 80,000 is still pending for each family. At Hebbala, around 34 beneficiaries are yet to be paid the Rs 10 lakh, claim the residents. Most of these are the offspring who are now over 18.

Mr. Kiran Kumar, RFO, who was officiating at Anechowkuru WL Range when the resettlement took place, notes that in the cash-based relocation case, according to the NTCA guidelines the amount can be paid only if the families buy a small plot of land in the name of the offspring.

As to the Shettahalli pending amounts, the delay in transferring the full amount was due to the hurry with which the people shifted out of the reserve, allowing no time for document verification, bank account creation, etc. The process will be completed in two weeks or so, says the RFO who has been following the case even after his transfer out of Hunsur. He has taken personal interest in opening bank accounts for the people.

Complaints notwithstanding, most people have settled into their new lives. The four centres have joined the ranks of Hunsur’s many ‘foreign’ colonies, where people from outside came, settled down and made it their new homes.

Written by Jayalakshmi K

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